Look at this story, posted at Jihad Watch on November 19: “Imam misunderstands Islam, asks, ‘What is wrong with Sharia law? If someone steals…why is it wrong to cut off his hand?'”
It says, “Imam Mohamed El Sadi, the Muslim leader in Malta, believes chopping off the hands of thieves is a ‘deserving punishment.'” El Sadi said: “What is wrong with Sharia law? If someone steals, he is taking from the country or the poor, so why is it wrong to cut off his hand?” And: “But whoever denies this is not a Muslim.”
The story also says: “Fr RenÃ¨ Camilleri, who was also a guest on the programme, said he was ‘shocked’ by the Imam’s comments. ‘I tried to insist violence is unacceptable. The concept is horrific to me. It is equivalent to the death penalty. I know it is what Sharia law dictates but, coming from him, such a moderate and tolerant person, I was shocked.'”
In his comment on the article, Robert Spencer notes that what Mohamed El Sadi said, on the television program Bondiplus, in his endorsement of the cutting off of the hands of thieves, was merely expressing what orthodox Islam, what the Shari’a, holds out as right and proper and to be emulated.
The story, however, has two protagonists. One is Mohamed El Sadi, and the other is the man who thought he knew Mohamed El Sadi, and knew what Mohamed El Sadi believed, as a perfectly orthodox Muslim. The two protagonists are the Muslim Mohamed El Sadi, and the Christian Father Rene Camilleri – and it is the latter who may be of greater significance. For Mohamed El Sadi, as Robert Spencer notes in his prefatory comment, did not say anything that is not orthodox Islam:
If someone in America points out that such punishments are part of Sharia, he is derided as an ignorant “Islamophobe.” But the Koran is clear: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” — Koran 5:38
And it is also clear that this verse is taken literally and seriously by all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. And so this imam is saying something that is only controversial to those who are ignorant (whether willfully so or not).”
When Mohamed El Sadi said that he saw nothing wrong with the punishment of the cutting off of hands of thieves, he was, let’s say it one more time, endorsing the system of criminal punishment, or hudud, that is found in the Shari’a, or Holy Law of Islam. This hudud is now enshrined in the formal law of several Muslim states (most notably, Saudi Arabia), and is, furthermore, the ideal, the model, that still other Muslim states take to be a model worthy of emulation, however imperfect their attempts at the moment. They certainly do not wish to bring attention – especially the attention of those among their own Muslim populations who take Islam most to heart – to the ways in which their laws, at present, may for prudential reasons differ from the Shari’a. And in Muslim states the law of Islam can be enforced not only by the state, but by groups or by Muslim individuals. In Pakistan, Christians fear prosecution on trumped-up charges for blasphemy, but they also fear the punishment that is often meted out to them informally, by Muslims in a fury. And in the lawless or government-less conditions of wartorn Afghanistan and Somalia, the Taliban, and the Shebabe, mete out their own punishments, according to the Shari’a, confirming that the hudud is, for those Muslims who are most deeply and fanatically Muslim, still the law – the law of Islam if not the law of the land.
None of this should have surprised a student of Islam. The only thing remarkable about Mohamed El Sadi’s remarks on the television program were that they were made publicly, before an audience of Infidels.
Tariq Ramadan, and those who follow the hissing advice of that smooth man, would never be so impolitic and so candid. He would talk about how, in the here and now, in “the reality of present-day Europe,” such punishments “have no place” – and that phrase “have no place” would be received by Infidel auditors as meaning “have no place” because they are morally unacceptable to Tariq Ramadan, when what Tariq Ramadan is actually saying is such punishments “have no place because, at the moment, we Muslims are not yet numerous enough, and for another decade or two we have to be very very careful, and it would be unwise to make demands prematurely, to scare unduly, and perhaps rouse to action, the Infidels among whom we now live, and with whom we must deal, for now, from a position of weakness.”
No, there should have been no surprise.
But, as the article makes clear, someone was surprised, someone on the very same television show, someone who had known Mohamed El Sadi and thought he knew him.
And that someone was a Christian Father, Father Rene Camilleri.
Here’s how he expressed his surprise:
“I know it is what Sharia law dictates but, coming from him, such a moderate and tolerant person, I was shocked.”
So he was “shocked.” Oh, he knew what the Shari’a said. He knew that it called for the cutting off of the hands of thieves. But still, you see, in all these years of learning about Islam, and meeting with Muslims, and listening to them, including among them this Muslim cleric whom he apparently knew (“such a moderate and tolerant person”), it never occurred to Camilleri that just perhaps, Muslims – including many or even most of those outwardly, to the undiscerning and ill-prepared, “moderate and tolerant” – might actually be Muslims who took Islam fully to heart. And they not only took it fully to heart, but were quite capable, for a long period, and in great numbers, for disturbing reasons, of practicing Taqiyya, which can be defined as “a doctrine in Islam, having its origin in Shi’a Islam but, on the basis of both Qur’anic textual authority, and the example of Muhammad, is a common practice of both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, and involves religiously-sanctioned dissimulation about both the Faith of Islam and about the beliefs of particular (threatened) Muslims.”
Intrigued by the shock of this priestly Camilleri, the Camilleri who exhibits such naivete about Muslim behavior and beliefs, I did a little research online and found out a bit more about him, his background, his scholarship, his everything.
Here is what turned up:
Rev. Dr Rene’ Camilleri read Theology and Philosophy at the University of Malta between 1972 – 1978. In 1979 he furthered his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome obtaining his Doctorate in Systematic Theology under the tutorship of Profs F. A. Sullivan SJ. In 1988 he took his teaching post in the Department of Fundamental & Dogmatic Theology in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta. He teaches Systematic Theology and his main areas of teaching and research are Ecclesiology, Anthropology, Faith and Culture. In 1994 he was Visiting Scholar at Heythrop College, University of London. He had various assignments on the Diocesan level and is a regular contributor in papers and on the Media. He is currently the Archbishop’s Delegate for Catechesis.
Towards an Explicit Theology of the sensus fidei, Extract from the Doctoral Dissertation, Malta 1987.
‘Faith and its Openness to Culture’, Paper read and published as part of the proceedings of a Seminar on “Faith and Culture”, University of Malta, October 1996.
‘Dostoyevsky. Bread before Virtue’, Paper read during a Conference on ‘Theology and Literature’ organized jointly by the Faculty of Theology and the Department of Maltese of the University of Malta, December 1997.
‘Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Challenge of Inter-Religious Dialogue to the Faculties of Theology in a Euro-Mediterranean Context’, Paper read at the COCTI Meeting of the European Faculties of Theology, April 1998.
‘Liberation Theology or the Liberation of Theology?’, published in: The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx’s Legacy to Humanity, Malta: Malta University Press 2003.
“Creating Identities: Beyond the Hermeneutic of Suspicion”, published in: Homosexuality. Challenging the Stigma (Edd. Paul A. Bartolo & Mark G. Borg), Malta: Interprint Ltd 2003.
Now let’s see. We have here an Identikit of the thoroughly modern Christian clergyman, the one who doesn’t take his own religion too seriously. There’s Liberation Theology, represented by a contribution to a book entitled Karl Marx’s Legacy to Humanity.
There’s the modist theology-and-literature paper on Dostoyevsky that appears, at least from its title – “Bread Before Virtue” – to be another contribution to the Marxist theme, or perhaps one should say Brechto-Marxist theme of “erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Morale” or, as it has been wittily translated, “Grub first, then Ethics.”
There’s a paper about “identities” – in this case, judging by the title (Homosxuality. Challenging the Stigma) of the book in which the paper appeared, about that old chestnut – “sexual identity” — being plucked from the fire.
And then there is the most telling of the four publications that Rev. Rene Camilleri lists: his “[p]aper read at the COCTI Meeting of the European Faculties of Theology, April 1998,” entitled ‘Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Challenge of Inter-Religious Dialogue to the Faculties of Theology in a Euro-Mediterranean Context.’
Let us be charitable. When Rev. Rene Camilleri wrote, and then “read” at the COCTI Meeting of the European Faculties of Theology, about “Judaism, Islam and Christianity” and “The Challenge of Inter-Religious Dialogue,” that was way back – decades, centuries, eons ago – in 1998. The “challenge” now is not to “inter-religious dialogue.” We have “inter-religious dialogue” coming out of our ears. No, the “challenge” now was perhaps until now unrecognized by Rev. Rene Camilleri until he had a little salutary shock of recognition, or the hint of a glint of the beginning of an understanding that perhaps, all along, he had not quite understood what Islam’s adherents really adhered to, and what they would ideally want if they could get it. And they are working mightily, all over Western Europe, to get it. That is the challenge presented to the world of Infidels, to Dar al-Harb, to above all (right now) the imperiled peoples of Western Europe, of Islam itself.
For Islam itself challenges the way of life, the view of Man, the solicitousness for the individual, the guarantee of individual autonomy and rights, and equality of the sexes, and guarantees of minority rights, that help to define advanced Western democracies, challenges indeed all of the legal and political institutions of every Infidel nation-state, which are flatly contradicted by the letter and spirit of the Shari’a.
What one wonders about Rev. Rene Camilleri and about so many others, including the non-Muslim members of that trio of “faith amigos” described in the Times recently, is why it is so hard for them to look steadily and whole at the totality of Islam. Why is it so hard for them? Why was it apparently impossible for the Rev. Rene Camilleri, a bookish fellow, in the eleven years that have passed since his 1998 paper on “dialogue” among the adherents of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and the “challenges” that such “dialogue” pose, to read, to study, to learn what the texts of Islam reveal? Why is it so hard for him to understand how those texts are received, and why they cannot be changed or discarded? Why can’t he grasp why it is a mistake to liken the role and reception of those texts to the role and reception of the canonical texts of Christianity and Judaism? And why, in the last eleven years, or at least since 9/11/2001, has Rev. Rene Camilleri not bethought himself, not chosen to consider the figure of Muhammad, who is for Muslims the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil, and the ways in which that Perfect Man, worthy of emulation in all times and all places, differs from the figure of Jesus? And why did he not realize that even if the Shari’a is not everywhere congruent with the laws of Muslim states, to the extent that those states take Islam seriously, it does become the law: in the Sudan, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Pakistan. And other states – Egypt, for example – take the Shari’a as the model of what their own legislation should be, even if it is not implemented fully. And the wording of the “Islamic” version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which differs so significantly from that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, shows that those who wrote it, and those who signed it, look to the Shari’a as the ultimate law, playing the role, for Muslim states, that the Constitution does in the American framework: the final authority as to what is, and is not, legitimate.
To the extent that the reception of the main texts of Islam (Qur’an, Hadith, Sira) has not been modified by time and custom, by nuance and neglect, by ignorance or by a willful decision to pretend not to know, those texts will inexorably lead Muslims to rediscover Islam. Being raised up in, say, the Western world, their mere consciousness that they are “Muslims” – even outside of Muslim states or societies — will lead them to rediscover Islam as part of that “identity.” Far from rejecting that “identity,” they will not only repair to it (sometimes out of an emotional desarroi, prompted by setbacks having nothing to do with Islam or even with politics), but will wrap themselves in it, refashion themselves as devout Muslims who must do everything that Islam commands, simply because – in the end – they are aware that they, because of one or both parents, are “Muslims” and therefore have to accept, and act on, the full program of Islam that some Muslims manage to ignore, or at least to attempt to ignore.
If Rev. Rene Camilleri were, in his willful innocence, a unique case, or if he were one of just a few, then he might not be worth writing about. But if you look around the world, you will see all those who are still insisting that our attitude toward Islam is one of unnecessary, because unfounded, fear. And they do so with self-assured aplomb, though it is clear that those making these statements have not bothered to find out what the many reliable Western scholars of Islam wrote about Islam before the Age of Inhibition set in. That Age set in about 1970. Before that, roughly from 1870 to 1970, was the age of Western scholarship, that of the now-maligned Orientalists, from a dozen or two dozen countries. They studied and wrote before Arab money bought up academic chairs, departments, and whole institutions, and before many non-Muslims academics – self-selected — became willing apologists for Islam along with their Muslim colleagues, with whom they curry favor either out of belief or out of a desire to smooth a path for their own careers and resistible rises. Nor have they read what the defectors from the Army of Islam – the articulate apostates – have offered, in their own books, as a kind of eyewitness testimony, to what Islam inculcates or, in their brave and unusual cases, somehow failed to do so.
What if that imam in Malta had done what many Muslims, clerics and non-clerics, continue to do? That is, they don’t reveal what they actually think, but engage in such a convoluted and confusing way of saying what it is they think, that they know it will be subject to misinterpretation by Infidels who are unable to read between the lines, or recognize what is carefully not being said, or recognize what is being said in a language in a sense Aesopian, that must be unpacked, and its meaning set out, piece by piece, so that Infidels may inspect it, and understand.
We still don’t know the rest of the story. We don’t know if Rev. Rene Camilleri, now that he has been disabused of his faith and trust, in Mohamed El Sadi, whom he always knew – until just up to the second he suddenly no longer recognized – as “such a moderate and tolerant person,” will extend his understanding a bit more. We don’t know if he will come to realize that the behavior, and beliefs, of Mohamed El Sadi are not those of Mohamed El Sadi alone, but of many many seemingly “moderate and tolerant” Muslims, especially in Western Europe, where for now they have to be – don’t they? – just about as “moderate and tolerant” as they can stand. In other words, how far along in his understanding will this sometime liberation-theologian, this marxisant professor, this student of the phenomenon of “the Other” in all its made-far-too-much-ofalterity, this dialoguist-of-the-deaf, how will this little shock of recognition, this televised epiphany or possible (sensu lato) anagnoris, continue to work itself out in his mind? Will he fight his way all the way to a more thorough understanding of things?
And really, we are not talking about the Rev. Dr. Rene Camilleri alone. We are talking about the men in the Pentagon. We are talking about the men (and, bien entendu, women) in the State Department. We are talking about those who, in our political and media elites all over the Western world, have out of laziness, or willful ignorance, or a deep desire to avoid having to think about things that are unpleasant to consider, and that might require something like the wholesale pulling down of various Idols of the Age, refused to assume their responsibilities to learn, and learn thoroughly, about the doctrine and the practice, over 1350 years, of Islam. Yet they continue to presume, with ever greater expense and mental confusion, to protect and instruct us.